Monday, July 22, 2013

Iceland Top 10 Tour, Part 2

Where I left over, Eric and I were doing a Top 10 Tour in Iceland, and we were ready for the best part, the walk on a glacier! This is the part of the tour that we would not have been able to do without the help of our tour guide from Extreme Iceland.

The glacier we visited was called Langjokull (the second largest glacier in Iceland, third largest in the world) and was only about a 45 minute drive from the Gullfoss waterfall. However, it did require a four wheel drive vehicle and the ride was definitely a bit bumpy. At one point we legit drove through a river. When we arrived at the lake, we had to put on even more clothes, basically a crazy snowsuit and a life jacket. This was really just to keep us warm on the boat ride, it was not necessary for actually walking on the glacier.

The boat ride itself was a highlight of the trip, it was such a beautiful and different landscape I could hardly take my eyes off everything around me.
Once we were over to the glacier we took off some of our warm clothing, this was actually the only sun we saw while in Iceland and the weather was quite nice while we enjoyed the glacier. Next, we put crampons on our hiking boots (which they lent us). Finally, after a quick safety summary, we were ready to walk on the glacier. Talk about a fun way to get some exercise!
As we walked safely on the glacier, our guide gave us some information about the glacier and other glaciers around Iceland. We got to walk for a little over an hour, including navigating our way around some gaps in the glacier and small streams that flow down the glacier.
When it was over, we got to ride the boat again. No matter where I go, speed boats are a happy place for me.

The ride back to Reykjavik was less eventful than the way out, but we did enjoy a stop or two including a collapsed volcano!

By the time we arrived back at our apartment, we were completely wiped out but happy with our successful day in Iceland. We would definitely recommend others take this tour to enjoy a lot of what Iceland has to offer in a short time.

I will be back next with our Austrian adventures. Any questions about Iceland? I would love to go back, but next time I may have to brave even colder weather to enjoy the northern lights.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Top 10 Iceland, Part 1

When I asked Eric what he really wanted to do in Iceland, he said "walk on a glacier." A little research and a short flight later, Eric and I were spending a Sunday on an Extreme Adventures Iceland Top 10 Tour. I had planned on doing a no tour trip but you can't walk on a glacier without some guidance, so off we went! I personally have mixed feelings about tours, but I would actually recommend

The Top 10 tour begins with the typical sites of the Golden Circle that most visitors to Iceland see. The first is a stop at Thingvellir National Park. I had no idea what to expect here but it was beautiful. It was also the site of the first Parliament in Europe (in the year 930). It was here that Iceland became a Christian nation in the year 1000. A place that is beautiful and has interesting history is worth a visit, plus it's only about 45 minutes outside of Reykjavik.

For those who prefer the scientific view, it's also the site where the Europe plate meets the American plate, the Mid Atlantic Ridge. This is what makes Iceland such a fascinating place, well... one of the many things.
Another thing I learned while at this site was that Iceland used to be ruled by Denmark. Technically they gained indepdence in 1918, but the King of Denmark was also the King of Iceland, so... not really. When Germany invaded Denmark in World War II, Iceland officially servered ties with Denmark and created their own Republic, electing their first president.
Our next stop on the Golden Circle tour is geyser. After seeing 100 thousand geysers last summer in Yellowstone, I really did not feel like I needed to see another. However, this one erupted every five minutes, no waiting! And plus, Iceland has the original geyser and they pronounce the word a bit differently than us.
Last stop for lunch was the Gullfoss waterfall. If I had to choose a favorite stop thus far, it might be this. First of all, they had a suspiciously good lunch. You know how driving stops in the US include sketchy truck drivers and disgusting food? In Iceland, they include delightful sandwiches and tomato soup. Oh, and shocking waterfalls that make Niagara Falls look like another backyard creek waterfall.

I think I could travel my whole life and still be amazed at the crazy different landscape, cultures, languages, all that this world has to offer. I mean sure, Iceland has a little hint of Ireland, or the Scottish highlands and maybe even New Zealand, but in the end it's really a unique place with words that cannot be pronounced and landscape that cannot be described.

Tomorrow I will tell you about our visit to a glacier, the highlight of our Icelandic Adventure!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Blue Lagoon and Reykjavik

You may be wondering what made Eric and I decide to visit somewhere as random as Iceland. Well, did you know Iceland Air is often the cheapest way to get to Europe and they offer a free stopover in Iceland for up to 7 days if you use their airline. Good advertising ploy, no? Though I will say I think Iceland needs to do some more things to really become a big tourist hub. Mostly improve their weather and make things less expensive. I mean I had heard it was not cheap but I don't think I quite pictured $60 to fill half a tank of gas in a Toyota Corolla. I doubt these are really within their control, but definitely are things to consider if you plan to visit!

Some of the logistics of Iceland: It was a 4 hour, 15 minute flight from Boston. You have a TV in front of you and the flight was amazingly not packed. We rented an apartment in downtown Reykjavik for 4 nights, but our flight in was at midnight and our flight out at 7 am so we really had 3 days. If you plan to stay in Reykjavik, definitely go the apartment route. I rented through Homeaway it was a million times cheaper and better than a hotel. We had a ton of space, our own kitchen and it was clean and super nice. If you plan to spend a lot of time in Iceland, then I think it's similar to Ireland in that it makes sense to rent a car and stay in a new place each night as you drive around the country.

On our first day in Iceland, we took it easy and visited a place called Blue Lagoon.


Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa, located about 40 minutes from Reykjavik. It's basically a huge pool/hot tub, filled with sea water, heated with the Icelandic hot springs placed in the middle of a lava field. Many people believe it has healing properties :)
I think it's a unique and beautiful place to relax with a cold drink or a popsicle.

Our last day in Iceland was spent exploring Reykjavik, with a day of exploring outside the city in the middle (will post about that next). Reykjavik is a nice city to explore, lots of good restaurants and shopping. I highly recommend Italia and Ban Thai for dinners. There are also two places I recommend visiting for nice views of the city, Hallgrimskirkja Church and Pearlan.

The church is a pretty famous landmark in Reykjavik and can be seen from almost anywhere. It also has a statue of Leif Ericson out front, a gift from the US acknowledging that he was really the first European to "discover" America. Here is a view from the observation deck:

Another great view in Iceland is from a building called the Pearlan, another unique building with 360 degree views of the surrounding area (though not from as high up).
Also located in this building is the Saga Museum, which gives a good history of this time period in Icelandic history. It's a museum where you put on head phones and it tells you about each thing, and it takes only about 30 minutes to go through the whole thing.
There are probably some other sites we missed in downtown Reykjavik but we had a big day of travel ahead so we didn't want to overdo it. I guess that just means we will have to come back to Iceland some day!
I will be back soon with photos of the Golden Circle of Iceland :)
Would you ever consider visiting Iceland? Do you have any impressions of what it might be like?


Thursday, July 11, 2013

I Love Boston Project: Rockport, MA

Despite the terrible blogging as of late, the I Love Boston Project is still in full swing. Yesterday Eric and I decided to do a short day trip up to Rockport, MA to celebrate our anniversary. Even though it's less than an hour away, I somehow have never been there and just really wanted to go. I didn't do as much planning and research as usual, so I do plan to go back to explore a bit more but if you are looking for a short and easy trip, I would recommend this. If you are willing to make it a longer day than we did, you could incorporate Gloucester as well, which is only a short drive away. 

Eric and I began our Rockport adventure trying to find a parking space. I entered in an address on Bearskin Neck, which is the downtown area of Rockport and ended up driving through this highly pedestrian, super narrow street. At the end of it, there were maybe 4 parking spaces and they were all full, so I REALLY recommend parking when you are ALMOST at downtown. Once that adventure was over, Eric and I were ready for lunch. 

We stumbled upon a restaurant called Brackett's Ocean View restaurant. It was in the downtown area, but not all the way down at Bearskin Neck. From the road, it doesn't look like it will have much of an ocean view at all, but when they lead you inside you end up RIGHT at the ocean. 

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Eric ordered a drink called a Neon Margarita. It was clear at this point this was going to be a great restaurant, I mean look how awesome that thing is. Yes, we judge by drinks. 

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While we enjoyed the view, we enjoyed some sour dough rolls and cornbread. Then Eric ordered a turkey burger and I got a lobster roll. We were both very happy with our meals, and the whole thing including drinks came to less than $40. That's more than I usually spend on lunch, but with lobster, it's not a bad deal. 

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After lunch, we headed down to walk through the Bearskin Neck area. Along here there are tons of great shops, art galleries, more restaurants and probably at least six ice cream places. If you are looking for any kind of jewelry, art or Rockport clothing, this is definitely the right spot to be.

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When we got to the end of this short walk, we ended up at the beautiful water. 

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There are some benches you can sit on to enjoy the beautiful harbor, but Eric and I decided to risk a walk out on the jetty. 

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I have to admit, being a big fan of jetty walks at the Cape, I was mocking this sign when I was talking this picture but looks are deceiving, there was some challenge on this walk. It is worth it in the end though, because the view is even more gorgeous out at the end...

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We hung out at the end of the jetty for a bit and watched some sailing schools. There were some really little kids with their own sail boats! As someone who knows very little about sailing, I was impressed. 

We spend a bit longer walking back in and walking down some of the side streets before heading back home. We decided to revisit Rockport during the off season sometime soon to see how it's different. My guess is, less people and less boats? :) 

If you like this I Love Boston Project, you may also want to read about: 

I Love Boston Project: Day Trip to Ogunquit Maine. 

I Love Boston Project: Blue Hills

What do you think about small coastal towns? I think they may be my favorite, but then I visit cities and I don't know if I could ever decide between the two. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

On people doing things "at me" and taking the pressure OFF

In the social media world (which I wish was the real world because then we'd be hanging out) Becky has been RAVING about this book she just read: Carry On Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed. I'm not gonna lie… when she first mentioned it I thought it was a political book about living without guns and I was thinking, "really? how did someone write a whole book on this?" Though I'm sure someone could...


Once I found out it was actually about just living without all the barriers we all put up, I thought it sounded more interesting so I started reading the blog by the author. Yeah, it's kind of a mom blog. I'm not a mom. Oh well, I skimmed through it. Then I found this post: Quit Pointing Your Avocado at Me. It's about the mommy-wars, of which I am not in. But oh my god, it is oh so applicable to a don't wanna be but am competitive girl stuck in a world of seemingly crazy people trying to outdo each other at every single turn. She discusses how when people do things, like bring their child an avocado to a mall food court (instead of just buying them some freaking pizza or "chicken" nuggets), they aren't doing it AT YOU. When people run a marathon, they aren't doing it AT YOU. When people get a promotion at work, they aren't doing it AT YOU. Not to make everyone out to be selfish a-holes, but everyone is doing what they need to for themselves, and what I do or don't do has very little impact on them at all. 


Is it just me or is that kind of freeing? When someone finishes their report cards at work before me, it actually has nothing to do with me, they just do it for themselves, as do I when I finish them. When someone manages to complete all their monthly goals and posts about it on their blog, they aren't trying to rub it in my face that I had a bad goals month- did I even make goals? If someone posts a photo of a party they hosted that looks like the entire thing is Pinterest worthy, this actually has nothing at all to do with me and the completely non-Pinterest worthy parties I throw and celebrate that I actually hosted an event at all. 


We all have our wonderful strengths and our weaknesses, or things we just don't care much about. That's what is so great about us. 98% of the time, I have no problem remembering this, and I'm genuinely happy for the marathon runners and the Martha Stewart party and meal hosts. It's just those occasional times when you need the reminder, no one is pointing their avocado at me. No one. Well, except maybe Eric with his fancy flips into freezing cold Maine water. 


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What are the things you feel like sometimes people do "at you?" :)